Chapter 4 – Talking to his Wife – May 1944
After the man’s departure, Ray re-opened the blinds and waited in his room, pacing the luxurious carpet and occasionally looking out the window at downtown Knoxville from the great vantage point of his hotel room. To say he was anxious was an understatement and what contribution could possibly be made to the war effort by sailing a boat on rivers in the middle of America was totally beyond him. After about ten minutes of wearing out the hotel’s carpet, Ray decided to phone his wife. She was still in Cleveland, living at her mother’s house, at least until the baby was born. With Ray away for who knew how long until the war was over it was felt being pregnant and living on her own was not a great idea. Her mother, Agnes, positively clucked at the suggestion like an old mother-hen and it certainly wasn’t an inconvenience for her. As for Gloria’s father, Wilfred, he just went with the flow.
Ray dialed the operator, told her the number he wished to call and waited. A few minutes later he heard the ring tone, after a couple of rings it was picked up, but to Ray’s disappointment, it was not Gloria but her mother.
“Mrs. Stanbury speaking,” Agnes said demurely, almost like a question.
“Hi Mrs. Stanbury, this is Ray. Is Gloria there?” Ray said excitedly.
“Oh Ray, it’s you, you’re safe, how are you?” Agnes Stanbury said, genuinely pleased to hear her son-in-law’s voice. “Gloria will be so glad you’ve called. We were worried about you with all the stories of U-boats and the such.”
“Yes, well the U-boat threat has pretty much disappeared Mrs. Stanbury, could I speak to Gloria please?” Ray said, trying to maintain his patience with his obviously relieved mother-in-law.
“But we heard a couple of convoys had been attacked from the air. Of course, no news is good news, but we were still worried about you!” Mrs. Stanbury explained, but by now Gloria was by her side and almost wrenched the telephone from her mother’s hand.
“Hi,” was all Gloria said but it was enough for Ray to take an involuntary intake of breath.
“Hi, how ya doin?” Ray asked.
“I’m fine, how are you?” Gloria asked swaying and fiddling with the telephone cord, oblivious to her mother asking her to ask Ray about things. After a few seconds, Mrs. Stanbury thought better of it and retreated into the kitchen to finish preparing dinner.
“I’m fine and how is the baby?” Ray asked excitedly, “not long now.”
“Oh, he’s kicking pretty good,” Gloria said.
“He? Do you think it’s a boy? How do you know that?” Ray said beaming from ear to ear.
“Well, mom thinks it’s going to be a boy, you know how she is with all her old wives’ tales,” Gloria said.
“A boy? Wow!” Ray exclaimed, then the realization of his situation kicked in, he only had a few moments before his new shipmate was expected to come knocking. “Look, just wanted to let you know, I have been taken off the troop ships and placed on special assignment, stateside. I’m in this doozy of a hotel in Knoxville right now, they flew me here on a private plane from Halifax.”
“Oh, what a relief.” Gloria said and then added excitedly, “does that mean you can come home to visit?”
“Yes, with a bit of luck, I’ll be home for the birth, isn’t that great?” Ray said equally as excited.
“Oh Ray, really?” Gloria whispered into the mouthpiece of the phone.
“Yes, isn’t it great, but after this call, I may not be able to contact you for a few weeks, I’m sailing a cabin-cruiser up the river. So, don’t go fretting if you haven’t heard from me for a while, O.K.?” Ray told her, just then, there was a knock at Ray’s door.
“Look, I can’t talk right now, all I can say is, tomorrow, me and another guy will be heading upriver on a cabin-cruiser, we’re going to St. Louis. I think that’s him at the door right now. Love you lots babe and miss you, see you soon.” Ray said, thinking that maybe he had already said a little more than he should.